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Once-a-month birth control pill ?

ANGELA OKETCH

By ANGELA OKETCH
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Women who forget to take their daily oral contraceptive pill should worry no more.

Scientists have now developed a once-a-month oral contraceptive pill, which increases women’s choices in exercising control over their fertility.

Several women get unplanned pregnancies because they forget to take their everyday pills.

Oral pills currently available in the Kenyan market are the conventional pills or the combined oral contraceptive.

However, studies suggest that nearly half of users will miss the odd dose or sometimes take their pill at the wrong time, hence the need for a monthly oral pill.

There are other longer-lasting contraceptive choices already available, including bi-monthly injections, or patches that need changing weekly, but there has been no once-a-month oral pill.

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Researchers say that once swallowed, the pill remains in the stomach for weeks while slowly releasing hormones to prevent pregnancy. It is designed to resist immediate attack by stomach acids.

They say it would be a good option for women who want to take a tablet for birth control but are worried about remembering to take a daily dose.

The findings published in the Science Translational Medicine journal suggest that the prototype is a star-shaped drug delivery system packaged into an easy-to-swallow dissolvable capsule not bigger than a regular fish oil tablet.

Once it reaches the stomach, the star unfolds like a flower and starts doing its work of steadily releasing contraceptive hormones housed on its six arms.

“The pill is big to immediately exit the stomach and will remain there for weeks until it has finished its job and can be broken down and excreted from the body,” says Dr Giovanni Traverso from Harvard Medical School, who developed the prototype with colleagues at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He adds: “There shouldn’t be any problem with blockages or digesting and passing food. We take safety very seriously.”

Testing of the pills on patients is ongoing to determine if it can safely and reliably deliver other drugs, such as malaria therapies.

Dr Masahide Kanayama, a gynaecologist with eMediHealth, said having several options for women will improve their decision as far as their health and fertility is concerned.

Dr Diana Mansour, from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said a monthly oral contraceptive pill will broaden contraceptive choices.

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